A recent life experience had me asking, “What the heck is going on in our world today? Where are the real fathers?”

CAMP HAVAGO

Not too long ago a bunch of us ‘older fathers’ wondered whether we had the energy and strength to restart a boys only adventure camp for high school teenagers from different cultures, race groups and backgrounds, called Havago. We were most terrified that we would be considered outdated, old and irrelevant by the boys. Maybe twenty years ago we were cool (we think) but now we are a bunch of balding, glass wearing, oddities.

In faith, we decided to give it a go.

On one particular night, after a talk about fatherhood and the father heart of God, more than 70% of the boys responded to the ‘Father call’ and we listened with hearts broken to their stories and prayed with a number of these shattered boys. They were drawn to us ‘oldies’ but more especially to those who could share the Father heart of God with them. Stories abounded about absent fathers, unfaithful fathers, fathers who have abandoned their responsibilities and given up on their children.

I can relate.

MY CHILDHOOD

My own story is one of a dad who just did not have time for his son. Instead, he favoured my older brother and despite all my efforts, nothing I ever did was good enough. Set during the height of Apartheid it did not help much that I was quite a few shades darker than the rest of my family. Rejection reared its ugly head early on and distance developed between my father and me at an alarming rate. He never cheered me on or took me fishing but I still longed to have contact with him.

No matter what I did, I was never going to get his approval.

Even though I heard the words I had waited for all my life just six months before he died, I still bear the pain to this day. I made up my mind that if ever I was to become a dad, I would be the opposite of what I experienced.

MID LIFE

I am thirty-five and waiting to meet my Youth Culture legendary professor in the U.S.A. I only had ten minutes with the great man and possibly one question:

I asked in a croaky voice, “Am I doomed to become like my old man?”

His answer was not what I was expecting.

“Yes probably so son”. Followed by the longest pause. “But you underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit.”

It was a Kyros moment as I began a journey of getting to know the Father heart of God. My first faltering steps of healing took place that day.

CURRENT DAY

Today I am a dad myself and I am classified as a ‘helicopter parent’. In other words, way too overprotective. To my daughter’s embarrassment, I was the only parent who cried at her matric ball (Can’t wait for the day of her wedding).

Despite all my failures and mistakes, young people keep calling me ‘Uncle Daryl’ or ‘dad’. How is that possible?

Perhaps it goes back to a few key decisions and lessons about God as father:

• Nothing can ever separate us from the Fathers love (Romans 8:37-39)
• He will take care of us even though our fathers and mothers reject us (Psalm 27:10)
• He becomes the father to the fatherless (Psalm 68:5)
• He loves and accepts me unconditionally
• When I mess up –he still believes in me –in fact he waits for me to return to him and celebrates like crazy when I come home (Luke 15 –prodigals)
• God’s heart is always to protect
• Always to provide

BRINGING IT HOME

Professor ‘legend’ was right, despite the scars, the Holy Spirit continues to take my own past, my own story and cause it to be of service for Him. I am still healing, and now and then when one of those ‘dad’ wounds surface, ‘Uncle Daryl’ shrugs his shoulders and thinks and prays for another ‘Havago boy’.

Boys desperately need fathers.

Don’t right yourself off as a father. There is definitely place for you in the fatherless world we find ourselves.

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